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In Defense of Selfishness

Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice is Unjust and Destructive

By Peter Schwartz
12-minute read
Audio available
In Defense of Selfishness: Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice is Unjust and Destructive by Peter Schwartz

In Defense of Selfishness (2015) exposes the dark side of an attribute most of us assume to be good: altruism. It explains why, despite common misconception, altruism is harmful, devaluing both individuals and societies at large – and why selfishness is the alternative that can provide us with liberation.

  • Anyone who’s ever felt guilty about being selfish
  • Skeptics of the welfare state
  • Those interested in the harms of altruism

Peter Schwartz is retired Chairman of the Board of Directors and current Distinguished Fellow of the Ayn Rand Institute. In Defense of Selfishness is his third book.

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In Defense of Selfishness

Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice is Unjust and Destructive

By Peter Schwartz
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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In Defense of Selfishness: Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice is Unjust and Destructive by Peter Schwartz
Synopsis

In Defense of Selfishness (2015) exposes the dark side of an attribute most of us assume to be good: altruism. It explains why, despite common misconception, altruism is harmful, devaluing both individuals and societies at large – and why selfishness is the alternative that can provide us with liberation.

Key idea 1 of 7

Altruism is a harmful doctrine that propagates self-sacrifice and subordination.

Does altruism pave the way to honesty and integrity? Can it bring about equality and social harmony? If you answered yes to either of those questions, you're wrong!

Nearly everyone assumes that it’s moral to put others before yourself; even people who choose to behave unethically usually don't question the theoretical value of altruism. However, the real consequences of altruism are rarely investigated.

Altruism is about subordinating yourself, because it requires servitude, not benevolence. Generously helping a victim of misfortune is not enough; rather, this doctrine of self-sacrifice claims you owe an unchosen debt to which the recipient is morally entitled.

Altruism requires you to put other people's interests before your own and suggests you have no moral right to exist for your own sake. So, to be altruistic, you must be prepared to sacrifice your wealth, goals and interests.

In other words, altruism effectively takes away your possessions, money, time and possibly even your life. Those things are no longer yours, as they now belong to the larger group or society. You surrender yourself for the good of the group; effectively, you're now serving those who have less.

A recent proposal regarding airline safety in the US illustrates the illogical nature of altruism. Many airlines forbid blind people from sitting in emergency rows; this policy, however, was opposed by the New York chapter of the National Federation of the Blind as discriminatory. The NFB proposed blind people be allowed to sit in the emergency rows. This proposal even turned into a Senate bill, which would endanger everyone on the plane in the name of equality – or, in other words, altruism.

In a purely altruistic view, there are only two kinds of people: those who have needs and those who can ensure that those needs are met. That's why governments constantly sap money from those who are able to provide and give it to those who aren't. Governments often subsidize transportation or farming, for instance. People accept these policies because of their altruistic nature, not because of their moral righteousness.

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